Stephen Gallacher finds form after changes to join Højgaard in lead in Oman

Denmark’s Rasmus Højgaard in the second round of the 2020 Oman Open at Al Mouj Golf
Rasmus Højgaard – who won his first European Tour event in Mauritius in December – is tied for the lead with Stephen Gallagher in Oman. Picture by GETTY IMAGES

RASMUS Højgaard and Stephen Gallacher both proved that age is just a number as they shared a one-shot lead heading into the weekend at the Oman Open.

The duo may be 27 years apart in age, but there was nothing to separate them at Al Mouj Golf.

They both reached nine-under after 36 holes, one shot ahead of Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Finland’s Kalle Samooja.

Danish 18-year-old Højgaard became the third youngest winner in European Tour history when he won his debut event at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open before Christmas.

And the teenager carded a 68 with an eagle, five birdies and three bogeys to move to the top of the leaderboard in the Middle East.

Gallacher – whose son and caddie Jack was born nine days before Højgaard – has four European Tour wins in his 45 years.

And the Ryder Cup winner, from Linlithgow, went one better with a bogey free 67 – his first blemish free round since the 2018 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Gallacher, who was part of Paul McGinley’s winning European team at Gleneagles, in 2014, said: “I’m delighted because it was tough from the get-go this morning.

“It was windy and it never really dropped so it was a tough morning with the first four holes straight into the wind.

“This is a great golf course and one of the best we play all year, but it’s very demanding and you’ve got to play good golf.

“If you don’t, you’ll get found out and fortunately I’m playing pretty well at the moment.

We were all feeding off each other, certainly Kalle was on fire. He posted seven-under with a bogey and a triple.

“And Richard McEvoy is a good friend of mine. So we had a good laugh together and just enjoyed the round.

“I had been struggling a bit recently, so I changed some things up and I’ve worked hard on my game.

“Things started to turn around at the Saudi International where I started to hit some good shots and it’s amazing how it can snowball after that,” added Stephen Gallacher.

“You start to chip and putt a bit better and start to compete, and hopefully by Sunday you just want to be in with a chance coming down the stretch to win.

“It’s a good spot to be in but there’s still a lot of golf to be played over the weekend,” said the Scotsman, who helps support junior golf in the Lothians and Border regions through his Stephen Gallacher Foundation.

Gallacher’s last win came in last year’s Hero Indian Open when he survived making a snowman to clinch his first win in first years on the European Tour.

Dutchman Joost Luiten – the 2018 champion – Essex’s McEvoy and fellow Englishman Robert Rock, Italy’s Guido Migliozzi and South African Brandon Stone were three shots off the lead.

Højgaard is looking to repeat the successs of last year’s Oman winner Kurt Katiyama, who claimed the second win of his rookie season at Al Mouj – while Migliozzi also recorded two wins in 2019.

Rasmus said: “You can’t avoid bogeys out here, so I knew at some point I would drop a shot because in this wind it’s tricky to keep the ball on the greens and fairways. But I managed to bounce back with a few birdies.

“I’m putting well at the moment and I holed some long putts today which always helps.

“It’s always a bit of a bonus when you make a few of them. And that’s been the key so far.

“I don’t do much away from the course, I hang out with my fellow Danes, do some gym work. Otherwise I watch some stuff online – anything on Netflix.”

Gagli beats Coronavirus scare to chase Gallacher and Højgaard

LORENZO Gagli overcame his coronavirus scare to move into contention at five-under after the 34-year-old Italian followed an opening round of 69 with a second round of 70.

The Italian had only been cleared to tee it up on Thursday morning after his test results for coronavirus (COVID-19) came back negative.

The Omani Ministry of Health subsequently cleared both players to leave self-isolation and participate in the tournament at 12.15pm after the negative result.

Due to the exceptional circumstances, they were reinstated as an addition to the field in Muscat and teed off as a two-ball at 1.30pm.

Gagli posted four birdies in his opening round and bogeyed the 17th hole before fading light stopped play.

He resumed with a closing par on Friday morning for a round of 69 and then carded five birdies and two bogeys in second round of 70 to move to five-under par, four shots adrift of the lead.

Gagli said: “It was a strange situation but I would like to thank all the European Tour staff, including Keith Pelley, tournament director Miguel Vidaor and my friend Paolo de le Feld from player relations, as well as the Ministry of Health in Oman, who have done an unbelievable job because I’m playing the tournament now.

“It was a strange situation but I’m really happy to be out on the course and playing golf.

“After the test came back negative and I found out I could play, when I was on the course I felt really relaxed, which helped me a lot.

“Playing with Edoardo helped too because we are really good friends. Our game is very similar, so it has been easier to play over the last two days.”

Molinari also made the cut after adding a 72 to his first round 70.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer recorded the first hole-in-one in tournament history and the fifth of the 2020 Race to Dubai season when he holed a pitching wedge from 162 yards at the 13th.

•Follow the progress of Stephen Gallacher and Rasmus Højgaard in the third round through live scoring by clicking here.

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